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Hospital Playlist Season 2 (2021) Episode 8: First Look (1)
What an almighty monster of an episode! Just over 110 minutes all up. It follows on from last week’s set-up on mothers (or parents in general) and pays specific attention to Rosa’s dilemma and the resolution of that around the wider theme of carpe diem or seizing the moment.
In all honesty I was boiling over with frustration with the way Rosa handled her issues with forgetfulness. It’s fortuitous that it wasn’t some form of dementia but things could have been a lot worse than just falling off the bed and sustaining minor injuries. I don’t often do an echo chamber style running commentary with my iPad in hand but I really had a hard time watching Rosa obstinately trying to postpone the inevitable visit to the doctor’s. I respect the writer’s prerogative to maintain a certain degree of suspense about Rosa’s condition and there’s no doubt in my mind that people who have doctor phobia exists. Still I was baffled about how her health arc unfolded especially when she’s always come across as a sensible sort of woman. That said, I’m sure the show was in full agreement with my sentiments because it didn’t take long before an accident took place which essentially forced her hand and took any kind of secrecy out of the equation. Not only does she end up in the emergency ward in Yulje, the word eventually gets around the hospital about her condition to the point where even the formerly absent Gyeo-ul hears about it. The longer she persisted in her refusal to be seen by a clinician, the level of agency that she might have had was markedly reduced. The ability to maintain discretion was quickly out of her hands.
Along the same lines was the masterful execution of Song-hwa’s arc in this episode that’s seen build up in prior ones. To be frank, Song-hwa is not a character I spend a lot of time thinking about and she often comes across more of an archetype than a real human being. We know that her primary purpose in the narrative is to serve as the Sage of Yulje and to symbolize good medical practice. And yet in one fell swoop, she’s been knocked off the pedestal with an epiphanous moment. All of Ik-jun’s admonishments about her tendency to overcommit has come to a head.
Work is good. It gives dignity and purpose to individuals. But work is only one aspect to life. Song-hwa is good at work… very good as a matter of fact. However, as she realised while she was being very good at work, her mother’s seeming trivial health complaints are actually far more serious. It’s a common malaise for anyone who is reasonably competent at their jobs… the snare that’s always just around the corner. The all consuming power of work. All throughout this season, the writer has been banging on this particular drum with a high degree of forcefulness. Work-life balance is globally topical especially in so-called prosperous countries. Whether people love their jobs or are clinging to them for dear life because decent paying ones are hard to come by, the struggle is real. My mind also goes to the man whose mother was diagnosed with a brain tumour. He gave the impression of being selfish because of what his sister said and the actor is known for playing baddies. But because this is Shin-Lee, I tell myself that there’s probably a lot more to this story than a son that is looking for an easy way out. And to be fair, what he said, is not entirely without merit. When he ran into Song-hwa after attending a funeral of a good friend, he apparently said “Life is futile”. His friend’s hard work finally paid off but he didn’t live long enough to enjoy the fruits of his labour. What’s the point of putting all of one’s eggs into one single basket and then life ends prematurely? When faced with one’s mortality, a recalibration of priorities is bound to happen in some form.
I realise that there are many people rooting for Ik-Song and I understand their impatience for that ship to sail. But as is the case in real life Song-hwa isn’t obligated to change her mind overnight just because Ik-jun is good to her. There’s a lot on her plate right now plus recent developments with her mother and that’s one call she can’t attend to immediately. I’m sure Ik-jun isn’t good to Song-hwa just so he can make her change her mind about being with him. He does genuinely care about her and is especially protective of her. Relationships are more complex than that and it isn’t about who is deserving of whom because they earned it. It’s much more than that. Otherwise it would be baldly transactional.
I can’t see much point in complaining about Ik-sun reappearance in Jun-wan's consciousness. That was always more than a possibility because the show never closed the door on that relationship with an actual betrayal or any attempt on Jun-wan’s part to move on. He who was formerly a serial dater too. Ultimately this is about what Jun-wan wants or needs. If this is the real deal that we’re meant to think it is, it shouldn’t be that easy for him to walk away. There’s a lovely scene at the start of the episode that confirmed to me what I thought last week about the trajectories of the two flatmates. Jun-wan returns to his flat after attending the school reunion. He is surprised to see Jeong-won at home early from a date sitting alone in the dark drinking. The two of them have a brief exchange, each wondering what’s going on with the other. It is an uncomfortable moment notable for what’s not said. What’s immediately striking is an intersection of the men’s trajectories with regards to their love interests. They’re both preoccupied and missing women for different reasons. From where I’m looking it seems to be largely about communication issues. Although I was impressed with Gyeo-ul in this episode for her thoughtfulness, I am still a little nervous by the fact that she was rather thin on the details considering that they’re in a relationship. She’s too cheerful for my liking. I don’t even think that she’s deliberately hiding anything. My feeling is that she just doesn’t want to “burden” him with an overabundance of facts. The entire thing feels unnatural to me. I’m not trying to be hyperbolic but there’s a lingering uneasiness hovering over them that demands attention. Although he tries to probe, Jeong-won also says very little. He also doesn’t want to pressure her too much. That phone call in the courtyard confirmed what I’ve been saying about them. When she returns everyone’s smiling and holding hands. I should be happy but all I feel is uneasiness. One day Jeong-won is going to explode, I hope. (As far as Buddha can explode) Front row seats and kale chips. As far as I can tell Jeong-won is not entirely happy with the way things are. To him at least, there’s something not quite kosher.
For me what’s really interesting about all these sorts of interactions is what’s not said. It’s what’s not said that piques my curiosity. Or when characters offer the barest minimum of words that good manners compel them to. Right from when Jun-wan hears Ik-sun’s voice over the speakers last episode to the end of this episode. Silence speaks volumes. For instance when Jeong-won says to Jun-wan that “It’s nothing. Something happened.” in the most oblique way. It’s code for him saying that he doesn’t want to talk about it at and please don’t probe. Jun-wan gets the underlying message and says very little before retiring to this own room. Of course neither are actually fine but they respect the other’s privacy enough to back off in the interim.
I loved the song of the week and the Harry Potter jokes. They made me laugh out loud. What was equally hilarious was the fact that Jun-wan knew that they were pulling his leg each time. I found the reference to the fact that he likes watching superhero movies fascinating because U-ju mentioned earlier in the season that Ik-sun was the one who taught him that his dad was a superhero saving lives too.
More later… I’m having a really busy day.